Bollywood will be singing and dancing in Vancouver in April — with your tax dollars. Premier Christy Clark announced this week that Vancouver will host the first Times of India Film Awards.
From April 4 to April 6, film screenings and other events will lead up to the awards ceremony at B.C. Place, expected to draw 30,000 people and be seen on television by hundreds of millions.
The B.C. government has given $9.5 million in matching funds to the Times of India Group and put $1.5 million into a business forum and other events. In return, the province has been promised a Bollywood film will be shot here. And India’s exploding middle class will see the beauty of B.C. on their television screens and add it to their list of vacation destinations.
The government expects $13 million to $18 million in economic benefits from hosting the event.
The province points out that India’s middle class is expected to grow from 50 million to 583 million in the next 15 years, numbers that have to make the tourism and export industries sit up and take notice. It also pointed out that B.C.’s exports to India increased 104 per cent in the first 11 months of 2012, compared to the same period a year earlier. It didn’t mention that in 2011, India accounted for only 0.6 per cent of B.C.’s commodity exports.
Those figures suggest we have nowhere to go but up, and India is a market B.C. should pursue. The question is: Is it really the best use of taxpayers’ dollars to give millions to the Times of India, whose many media outlets reach 90 million people a day and which publishes the largest English-language daily newspaper in the world? Maybe we should be asking them for money.
The government has rightly refused to increase tax credits to our own suffering film industry. We can’t join in a rush to the bottom in a game we will never win. But given that refusal, how can Clark then commit public money to an awards ceremony for India’s film industry, in the earnest hope of a few million in economic benefits and the possibility of some films being made here?
It strains credulity to believe that significant numbers of Indians will see a few glimpses of B.C. between the awards and dance numbers, and rush out to their travel agents.
When times are tough, we should be putting our money in safer bets.
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